Thursday, 2 February 2017

Threat to Labour Leader in Unite's Election?

LEN McCluskey stepped down early as general secretary of Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, so as to stand again for a third term.  The New Statesman writer, Stephen Bush wrote in January that 'The contest has potentially far-reaching consequences for the Labour party. McCluskey was elected in 2013 to serve a five-year term; but his supporters hope that the move will allow him to stay in post until the next general election.'
Unite is the largest affiliate to the Labour Party. That makes it a power player in the party’s internal politics, although, writes Bush in the New Statesman of Unites leadership 'their reach and influence may often be overstated.  It is the GMB, a trade union from the party’s centre, which has dominated parliamentary selections so far in this parliament.'
McCluskey, who is 66, has some believe been handicapped by the idea, which Unite's press officers briskly deny, that he favoured Andy Burnham, not Jeremy Corbyn, in the 2015 Labour leadership election:  see the New Statesman, 6th, December 2016.  In the end Unite backed Corbyn.
In the last leadership election for Unite's top job, it was the left-wing candidate, Jerry Hicks, that threatened McCluskey most, and since then McCluskey has been a solid supporter of Corbyn, and it seems Unite 'underwrote much of the Islington MP's second leadership bid' last year.
Yet, according to the journalist Stephen Bush:  'the perception that he is a fairweather friend of the Corbyn project still lingers in some circles'.
The great hope for Labour’s Corbynsceptics and the right-wing centre is Gerard Coyne, the regional secretary in the west Midlands.  It has been said that allies of McCluskey hoped he could be bought off with a parliamentary seat, but  that hasn't happened and some are worried that a victory for Coyne would upset the current political complexion of the Labour Party.
We now know on the left, that Jerry Hicks will not be a contender in the current election for Unite General Secretary, but he has promised that he will support the new left-wing candidate Ian Allinson for the job.
Ian Allinson is Fujitsu's Unite convenor in Manchester, and has been involved in Unite and its forerunners for 25 years. He also has a blog, which records his union activities since 2007.  Whereas Len and Gerard are both entrenched in the union bureaucracy, Ian Allinson makes a claim to being the closest to trade union rank and file membership.  Here is the shop-floor Manchester lad to take on the tired union establishment. men.
The result of this election could well have wider consequences for British politics.

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